Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA Manufactures Its Own Consent

Justifies new water regs on the grounds that 90 percent of public comments it solicited favored them.

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Ingsoc1984
1984

In his 1988 book, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of Mass Media, co-author Noam Chomsky decried how newspaper, radio, and television peddles "system-supportive propaganda" in the service of ideological goals. The masses are diverted from challenging the system by Necessary Illusions promoted by the political class. Of course, as a committed leftist Chomsky is convinced that a corporate power elite is in charge of the process of manufacturing consent and disseminating necessary illusions.

As it happens, President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has apparently learned a trick or two when it comes to manufacturing consent. Earlier this week, the agency released its new surface water regulations. Let's set aside for the moment whether or not the agency actually has the authority to adopt the new regs, and look instead at how the agency managed the process of creating the necessary illusions to justify their adoption.

Earlier this year, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy testified that out of over 1 million comments received regarding the proposed regulations nearly 90 percent favored them. The implication, of course, is that the public should get what the public so overwhelmingly demands. But the New York Times is reporting that EPA officials were not just the passive recipients of comments, but actively encouraged interest groups to mobilze their members to flood the agency with supportive emails and letters. Critics argue that the agency-managed campaign violated the Anti-Lobbying Act.

From the Times:

In a campaign that tests the limits of federal lobbying law, the agency orchestrated a drive to counter political opposition from Republicans and enlist public support in concert with liberal environmental groups and a grass-roots organization aligned with President Obama.

The Obama administration is the first to give the E.P.A. a mandate to create broad public outreach campaigns, using the tactics of elections, in support of federal environmental regulations before they are final….

the Justice Department, in a series of legal opinions going back nearly three decades, has told federal agencies that they should not engage in substantial "grass-roots" lobbying, defined as "communications by executive officials directed to members of the public at large, or particular segments of the general public, intended to persuade them in turn to communicate with their elected representatives on some issue of concern to the executive."

Late last year, the E.P.A. sponsored a drive on Facebook and Twitter to promote its proposed clean water rule in conjunction with the Sierra Club. At the same time, Organizing for Action, a grass-roots group with deep ties to Mr. Obama, was also pushing the rule. They urged the public to flood the agency with positive comments to counter opposition from farming and industry groups.

The results were then offered as proof that the proposal was popular.

"We have received over one million comments, and 87.1 percent of those comments we have counted so far — we are only missing 4,000 — are supportive of this rule," Ms. McCarthy told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in March. "Let me repeat: 87.1 percent of those one-plus million are supportive of this rule." …

At minimum, the actions of the agency are highly unusual. "The agency is supposed to be more of an honest broker, not a partisan advocate in this process," said Jeffrey W. Lubbers, a professor of practice in administrative law at the American University Washington College of Law and the author of the book "A Guide to Federal Agency Rulemaking."

"I have not seen before from a federal agency this stark of an effort to generate endorsements of a proposal during the open comment period," he said.

Other legal experts quoted in the Times suggest that while the EPA's consent manufacturing exercise may not violate the Anti-Lobbying Act, its creation of the necessary illusion of public support walks up to the line.

Chalk up another propaganda, uh, public engagement success for "the most transparent administration in history."

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  1. OBEY PEASANT!

  2. By the way, this isn’t new. The EPA has a long tradition of helping environmental groups sue itself so a particular regulation or oversight would be forced by the courts.

    1. I should remember this from law school, but those cases don’t seem to be “actual controversies” as required for standing in federal court.

      Admittedly I thought my Federal Courts class was exceedingly boring and I really should have paid more attention.

      1. When EPA has missed a statutory deadline to publish or revise a rule, it is. It’s open-and-shut, in fact. The problem is that EPA misses basically every deadline in the books, so the environmentalists can pick which ones to force it to meet and which ones get left by the wayside.

      2. Standing to sue that otherwise would not exist can be conferred by Congress by way of statute. The environmental laws confer such standing to those who claim to be harmed by environmental issues.

        Really, you should have paid attention.

  3. “Let me repeat: 87.1 percent of those one-plus million are supportive of this rule.” …

    Paraphrasing my mom (Epi may have to correct me), if 87.1% told you to jump in the lake I supposed you’d do that, too.

    But jumping in the lake probably violates on the EPA’s new regs now.

    1. Given what they’re aiming for, splashing in sidewalk puddles probably does too.

  4. Eh. The Supreme Court literally told EPA to work out a new definition for which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act. There was going to be *a* rule no matter what.

  5. “In a campaign that tests the limits of federal lobbying law, the agency orchestrated a drive to counter political opposition from Republicans and enlist public support in concert with liberal environmental groups and a grass-roots organization aligned with President Obama.

    The Obama administration is the first to give the E.P.A. a mandate to create broad public outreach campaigns, using the tactics of elections, in support of federal environmental regulations before they are final….”

    The American Chavez.

    Congrats to all the idiot fucksticks who voted for that POS.

    1. Congrats to all the idiot fucksticks who voted for that POS

      Twice.

      1. That is the problem…there are that many in-the-know and along-for-the-ride that can make this crap reality. We are spending too much time attacking the ‘points’ and ignoring the ‘spears’ that launch them.

        ‘Grassroots’ IS the key…it’s past time we get our’s in order.

  6. “system-supportive propaganda”

    About that.

    I play a fun palour game in my car when I get bored with the station I’m listening to. Since I stopped listening to NPR over a year ago, I’ll stop on NPR for ten or fifteen seconds to see if NPR is still being NPR, even in a flashbulb moment. They never disappoint.

    A segment on the economy was recently closed with a comment by the reporter: “As the U.S. economic elevator starts to climb again, a central challenge for the next president will be making sure more American families aren’t stuck on the bottom floor.”

    Is it the central challenge for the next president to make sure 330,000,000 people have more equitable outcomes? Why do we think the president has this kind of power, or that we desire he has it? This awful question-begging reporting is why I don’t listen anymore.

    1. Why do we think the president has this kind of power, or that we desire he has it?

      Because the president doesn’t just run the government, the president runs the entire country!

      1. Chris Rock said the President is the country’s daddy.

    2. My blood was boiling this week when I heard that shit.

    3. This awful question-begging reporting is why I don’t listen anymore.

      To the NPR fans I spend time around they literally regard these as ‘truisms’.

      I can’t fathom it, this president has dumped unprecedented amounts of money, reform and regulation into the most lukewarm ‘recovery’ in history and NPR is already pigeonholing the next guy for *the solution for everybody*.

      And my bobbleheaded co-workers call in and donate money.

      1. To be fair, you’re donating money too, it’s just being stolen out of your paycheck before you get it.

    4. One of my favorites was when the NPR guy was talking about some company being sued for something, don’t remember what, but apparently it ripped some people off. Well, they got fined big time by the feds. The reporter said something about how it would be nice if the company had been forced to give the money back to the customers, then he paused and said that the company was paying back its customers by paying the government, since the government is the people.
      These idiots seriously believe that by the government is the people and the private sector is them.

      1. then he paused and said that the company was paying back its customers by paying the government, since the government is the people.

        This gave me cancer.

    5. WOW! And I thought I was the only one still listening to NPR for updates on the NEXT nudge…

  7. “We have received over one million comments, and 87.1 percent of those comments we have counted so far ? we are only missing 4,000 ? are supportive of this rule,”

    I haz confused. What do the missing 4,000 comments represent? Is 87.5% validation some magic percentile that unlocks the other two branches of govt?

    1. “We only lost 4,000 out of 1,000,000+ comments! We’re the most competent governmental agency out there!”

  8. This is great. Let’s do play this game. Stuffing the comments box is now legal? Good to know.

    1. I’m pretty sure that only applies when the comments agree with what the agency wants to do anyways.

    2. Stuffing the comments box is now legal? Good to know.

      #IFLS

    3. Stuffing the comments box is now legal? Good to know.

      Always has been. Anyone can comment on proposed rules. You can go here:

      Regulations.gov

    4. Time to unleash the power of Perl: the Markov Chainsaw.

      I wonder just how fast I can send out email without getting shutdown for spamming…

  9. EPA is the world’s largest superfund site.

  10. So the New York Times called out the EPA? I’m confused. I think I need to go lie down and come make and read this again later.

    1. Yes…the ‘spinning head’ is part of the program…they WANT us to lay down…

  11. DA EPA goosed their greenie people to boost the #’s so they could say the public voted. The EPA needs to be gutted out of buz. EPA does not even have to show their studies for proof. They get to use dictates from on from high and we are supposed to shut up and suck it up. Well oprez changed everything and his dudes/minions have pulled way to many stunts to believe anything he says or his dudes.

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